Once a month all the men in Rosehip grow wings and fly off, leaving behind only women and children. “Where do they go?” Cedar asks the woman whose floor she’s crashing on when they’re not hooking up.

“Who knows?” says the woman and shrugs. “Who cares?”

Well, Cedar cares, for one, so she makes friends with a long-legged but sad-faced boy and convinces him to take her up with them. “You gotta be chill,” he says, as she clings to his back.

Cedar snorts. “I’m always chill.”

“You are never, ever chill.” They’re riding on an aerial, and it’s shockingly quiet. “Look, just keep quiet and don’t praise, uh, God. We’ve had problems with that before.”

Cedar just laughs and laughs. The great bowl of the world wheels below them.


Cedar has been in Gestas for almost a year, and she’s starting to get desperate. The city has wrapped itself around her foot like a snare and she’s contemplating amputation. She never wants to linger, but she can’t break free; every road leads back into town, every flight is canceled, every ferry is delayed. Schedules and maps, like everything else, are a tissue of meaningless, pointless lies, knowledge gleefully hoarded for the sheer joy of hoarding.

She hasn’t learned anyone’s name — or, rather, has learned dozens of names for every one she’s met, inconsistently and maliciously shifting from moment to moment. Faces blur together, bodies melt and flow like wax whenever she turns her head. It is only her grinding, stubborn worthlessness that has kept her entire, and even then she has met herself several times turning a corner; the same crooked nose, the same nicotine stained hands, the same wide-spaced teeth. Gestas steals without remorse, but also without covetousness; her doppelgangers thrill to see her, spread their arms wide for a lingering hug.

She’s been pickpocketed hundreds of times, but she never has anything she can’t afford to lose, nothing anyone can meaningfully take from her, except the freedom to move. Gestas threatens that, but unknowing; roads may twist and maps may lie, but the sky does not. She hopes.


Cedar is drinking quietly in a dive bar in Gong, pointedly ignoring the bartender, when the demon appears like turning a corner, long blonde mane, red face, the sound of flutes. “No,” says the bartender flatly. “Get out.”

“I’m a paying customer,” the demon says, swaying.

“Absolutely not.” She reaches under the bar, comes out with a noisemaker, a long hollow stick with ridges on the side, and an abstract, glowering mask. “Leave now.” She whistles for the rest of the staff as she rounds the bar, the cooks and waiter with their own masks and noisemakers. They crowd toward the demon, circle it, growling and scraping and thumping arrhythmically.

“What the hell is this,” says the demon, hitches its nose up like an angry cat. “What are you doing? This sucks, stop this.”

Growl thumpa scrk scrk, they go, circling circling, the bartender flicks water from her bar rag in its face.

“Aaaaah, this sucks, you suck, you losers, fuck this, I’m going to take my money elsewhere, fuck this bar anyway, just stop it.

They open a path to the door, stay right on the demon as it backs away, one step forward for every step back, no ground ceded, filling the air with noise.

When the bar has settled down again and everyone’s back to their spots, Cedar leans forward. “What was that about?”

“Fuckin’ demons,” the bartender growls. “Gotta nip it in the bud immediately when one of them comes in.” She rings a silver bowl set next to the register. “Gotta shut that shit down, or they take you over and you’re a demon bar now and that’s a PROBLEM.”


“No, listen,” slurs Cedar, “listen.

“I’m listening,” says her barmate, with just a shade too much humor in her voice. “Go on, then!” Cedar darkly suspects her of sobriety.

“The thing you have to remember about Alcibiades—Alkibiades? oof, that can’t be right—the thing about Alcibiades was, dude was horny. He was cockthirsty.”

“Whomst among us—”

“No, I mean, seriously. Dude wanted the D. And your boy Socrates—Sokrates?—Socrates, he wouldn’t give it to him. He was a tease.”

“The philosopher?”

“Yeah, shut up, of course, that guy. Socrates—”

“The weird bald dude with the potato nose?”

Yes, are you even paying attention? Hemlock, soldier, ran for miles without breaking a sweat, corrupted the youth, jackass at parties, cocktease—”

Her barmate puts her hand on Cedar’s, and she loses complete track of what she was saying. She hopes to god it’s charming, but she’s too sweaty to say for sure and too drunk to really care.


Cedar-Magnolia-PorterThe men had outraged them, so they rose up against them and cast them out, beyond the city walls, beyonds the fields, into the forests and the wild spaces and the mountains. Some went with them, who can say, what does it matter.

In their wake life went on much as before. Bread was baked, books were sold, cigarettes were smoked over small dark cups of potent coffee. Your hands might shake, your joints might ache: coffee like that.

Cedar comes to their city in a quiet October chasing a long dry summer. The fields beneath the city walls are dry as gold, yearning for some careless spark: she dares not smoke.

Children, children they worked out amongst themselves. It wasn’t as difficult as they’d thought. Life went on. She learns this in some crowded basement bar, squeezed between two cheerful drunks, a radio blaring politics.

It’s been a bad year for her, all roads and no rest, her stories stale, her breath bad. She drinks, laughs into her collar, pleased to listen, to take it all in. The beer is good, the room is loud and dark, she has nowhere to be. Outside they rush through the city streets, clash bronze axes on bronze shields, a time of politics and prairie fires.